Regional airline safety really doesn’t have to be this bad

Whatever the cause of the recent Yeti Airlines ATR72 fatal crash in Nepal, it will turn out to have been preventable.

I don’t make this prediction lightly. It’s based on years of global airline accident data, which shows that almost all serious crashes over the last decade or more involve small or medium-sized propeller-driven aircraft operated by commuter, regional or freight operators.

It’s not the propellers that are the problem. Other indicators provide clues as to what that might be.

Year after year, most such accidents take place in nations – like Nepal – that have, statistically, a below-average safety score in terms of serious events. So it is a cultural problem. Not national culture, but safety culture within the national industry. That culture relates to how seriously safety is taken within the government’s transport department, the national aviation authority, and the individual airlines, right down to the training of individual pilots and engineers which influences their attitudes to their job.

Among countries with below-average aviation safety performance, Nepal and its aviators face particularly serious challenges, given the country’s extraordinary terrain and the fickle weather that goes with it.

Having challenges to face, however, should not degrade safety. Nepal has a duty to its air travellers to become the world’s expert in navigating its local terrain and flying safely despite its extreme conditions. All countries whose aviators routinely face extreme or unusual conditions have a duty to become experts at the challenges unique to their environment, and to be proud of that expertise.

FlightGlobal.com, and the February issue of Flight International, examine what regional and commuter operators can do to raise their safety standards to those of the best in the world. They also review what the world’s best did to raise their game from relative mediocrity in the 1990s and early 2000s to the zero-accident status they can now demonstrate almost every year.

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